There it is, that old stand by question, “What keeps you up at night?” There lots of arguments about whether that’s the worst question one might ask in a sales call, but that’s not what this blog is about.
The much more powerful concept is the ability of the sales person to engage the customer in a conversation about “What should be keeping them up at night?”
Like us, our customers are overworked and time poor. Their days are consumed with just doing their jobs. Too often, they don’t get to think further ahead than the next day. They don’t have the chance to think about their function, their department, their company, their industry, their customers, their competition. They don’t have the chance to think six months, a year, two years out. They’re busy surviving today.
Faced with this reality, we know what’s keeping them up at night–it’s what they are facing when they go into the office tomorrow!
The real opportunity for sales people is not to talk about what’s keeping them up at night, it’s engaging the customers in a conversation about what should be keeping them up. What’s happening in the industry, markets, with their competition, or with their customers that could blindside them. What opportunities are they missing, what could the be doing differently that would improve their business.
Customers don’t have the chance to think about these things. They don’t have the time to research and consider the impact, or to assess strategies they can use to address these issues. Sales people can demonstrate great leadership by helping their customers understand what they should be thinking about.
Engaging customers in discussions about what should be keeping them up at night requires a completely different skill set with sales people. The ability to have these conversations requires a deep understanding of the markets and segments in which the customer competes. It requires the sales person to understand the customer’s business strategies and priorities and the ability to translate these to their impact on the individual the sales person is speaking with. It requires a deep understanding of business management and skills to in visioning and communicating future scenarios for the customer.
Your customer know what’s keeping them up, they are dealing with those issues. Sales doesn’t create a lot of differentiated value in these conversations. They don’t know what should be keeping them up–are you helping them understand these issues–and how you can help them address them?